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Averaging Out Income - Assume Centrelink Benefits Whole Year

Debt amount: 
$817
Date debt issued: 
Monday, 12 December 2016
Period debt occurred: 
July 2014 to June 2015
Has your case been referred to a collection agency?: 
No
Payment Type: 
Newstart Allowance
Appealing Debt?: 
Yes in process
Tell us about your debt and how has this affected you? e.g. anxiety levels, financial and accommodation stress: 

I am not on Centrelink and have not been for almost two years. The first I heard of this was when I received an sms on 20/12/16 alerting me to a My Gov message. I curiously logged into see why I received this message from my Gov after all this time, to find a letter from Centrelink dated 12/12 with reporting income due 19/12 for debt recovery claim. The first notification was already sent to me already overdue upon receipt. I found a debt letter requesting $817 including a recovery fee of $74.35. Payment due by the 12/1/17. This was extremely upsetting and distressful as I was just about to head off for the Xmas holidays and would be unable to deal with this until my return in January. I subsequently received a couple more messages before Xmas via sms and email continually alerting me to my 'overdue' debt. I was on Centrelink for the 2014-2015 financial year for two periods: a - from 1/7/14 - 24/10/14 including 6 fortnights where I continued to put my forms in as advised and did not receive any payment due to working which I fully declared and b - from 08/5/15-30/6/15. In the period a - I worked 60 hours a fortnight from 4/8/14 in addition to casual hospitality agency work which I fully declared each Newstart reporting period. This was until my Newstart was officially cancelled on 24/10/14 due to 6 fortnights with $0 payment being received. I was still employed from 24/10/14 until 2/04/15 during which I was not on Centrelink at all with no obligation. I claimed again from 7/5/15 until 30 June 15 but also again received no payment from 11/6/15 as I was again receiving full time temporary employment. For these two periods I received $2290 in total for 2014-2015 for which Centrelink are now asking for recovery of almost ~$817. Quite a significant sum which I do not owe as I always declared my income accurately in the reporting periods due at that time. I have now combed through my bank statements from 2014-2015, tracked down all my timesheets and payslips and also my casual letters of employment along with MYOB business statements and separation certificate all uploaded to My Gov. I've spent probably about 20 hours to date compiling all this and converting to pdf and creating a big fat Excel spreadsheet with rigorous detail. I am now waiting the outcome from Centrelink and an authorised review officer to reply in a few weeks.

This is appalling and the timing before Christmas 2016 was shocking. From everything that I have followed and read regarding this Centrelink debacle it's clear that they have averaged out my income somehow generating a higher weekly income figure against my claims which makes me look like I am a welfare cheat. Their algorithm has not taken into account the fact that I did not receive full time work for the whole period or year and that I stopped receiving Centrelink on the dates mentioned above and was not on Newstart for the majority of the FY but only a short period. Still, I have been caught up in the scandal.

How do you feel about the way the Government has handled this process?: 

Being unemployed is demoralizing enough, especially when you are really trying to land a job and going through the hamster wheel of endless applications and interviews after an unexpected redundancy in that year. I remember Centrelink making me feel depressed at the time with the usual experiences of endless waiting times on the phone and other terrible stories. Including sending the police around to my house to check on my welfare when in one ridiculous period of standing in a public phone box in Fitzroy after being passed around from person A to B to C and then told to go back to person A and I'm not kidding, three hours (!) in that phone box (on hold mostly) I eventually lost my cool and started crying and said I was going home to die (a verbal expression which I had no intention of actually doing but unfortunately which came out anyway). So yes, when I got home, already very upset with them, the police were waiting for me too. That's just one example of the Newstart experience (there's plenty more). I couldn't get off benefits quick enough to avoid the experience ever again and it pains me to hear from politicians about the alleged 'leaners' and 'dole bludgers' we are. All for a miserly ~ $250 per week. Now almost two years later, even though I am not a client, they are still causing me great distress. Of that hard to come by $250 I needed, they now want almost one third of it back. I requested an extension and then a second one until I could line all my documents up to submit. I am looking forward to the Senate inquiry and I hope the Ombudsman finds them in error with penalties to apply for the time, stress and inconvenience to all effected. It's a serious thing to ask for money and raise a debt for large sums which are incorrect. If I thought I owed anything, I would pay it, but the reality is that I don't owe a cent and reported honest income. They need to fix the debt computer system asap.